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Birthplace
Dundalk, Maryland
Interview Description:

Biography |

Interview Date: 9/19/2016 |and| 9/22/2016

In a career spanning forty-seven years, André De Shields has distinguished himself as an unparalleled actor, director, choreographer and educator. Mr. De Shields is an esteemed alumnus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UWM), where in 1970 he earned his B.A. in English. In May of 2004 the UWM bestowed upon him an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts, followed by a second honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from SUNY-Buffalo State in September of that same year. Mr. De Shields completed his graduate work at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, where in 1991 he received his M.A. in African American Studies. His numerous accolades also include the 2007 Village Voice OBIE Award for Sustained Excellence of Performance, the 2009 National Black Theatre Festival’s Living Legend Award, a 2012 Fox Foundation Fellowship in Distinguished Achievement, Florida Atlantic University’s 2014 Making Waves Award, the Theatre School at DePaul University 2015 Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Riant Theatre’s 2016 Pioneer of the Arts Award, three Chicago Joseph Jefferson Awards and nine AUDELCO Awards. A multiple Tony Award nominee, Mr. De Shields is best known for his show stopping performances in six legendary Broadway productions: Impressionism (costarring with Jeremy Irons and Joan Allen-2009); the world premiere of Mark Medoff’s Prymate (Drama Desk nomination-2004); The Full Monty, for which he received Tony, Drama Desk and Astaire Award nominations, in addition to both the Outer Critics Circle and Drama League Award-2001; Play On! (Tony nomination-1997); Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Drama Desk nomination-1978) and The Wiz (title role-1975). In 1982, he won an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Performance for the NBC TV Special based on Ain’t Misbehavin’.

In February 2009—in honor of Barack Obama’s historic rise to the presidency of the United States of America—Mr. De Shields created his solo performance—FREDERICK DOUGLASS: MINE EYES HAVE SEEN THE GLORY, which continues to evoke powerful emotional responses from audiences from New York’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Labor Center, to The Yard on Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket’s historic Athenaeum Library and the 2014 Anne Frank Project Conference at SUNY-Buffalo State College. And at the behest of its Cultural Foundation, Mr. De Shields has twice performed Ambassador Satch, his tribute to Louis Armstrong, in the United Arab Emirates.

At the Classical Theatre of Harlem, he has participated in five remarkable collaborations with its former Founding Artistic Director, Alfred Preisser—in 2003 as Makak in Derek Walcott’s Dream On Monkey Mountain, in the title roles of Archbishop Supreme Tartuffe-2009, Caligula-2005 and King Lear—resulting in a co-production with the Folger Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC during its 2006-2007 season, commemorating its seventy-fifth anniversary—and Langston Hughes’ Black Nativity (Lucille Lortel, Drama Desk and Drama league Award nominations/Outstanding Leading Man in a Musical)-2006. Mr. De Shields began his professional career in 1969 at Chicago’s Shubert Theatre in Tom O’Horgan’s production of Hair, The American Tribal-Love Rock Musical. He is the ninth of eleven children born and reared in Baltimore, Maryland.

André De Shields was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 19, 2016.

Speaker Bureau Notes: